Strategic Societal Engagement: Multidisciplinary Approaches toward the Alleviation of Poverty


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Despite the progress of humanity over the last several centuries, poverty remains an ongoing societal challenge amongst the global community (Amato & Zuo, 1992; Foster, 1998; Ding & Leng, 2018). In 2015, the United Nations established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which the eradication of poverty in all its forms emerged as the top strategic priority (Griggs et al., 2013). While poverty is traditionally viewed as an economic phenomenon where, "individuals or family's income cannot reach the standard of socially acceptable living standards" (Zhou & Liu, 2022: 409), it has overarching consequences amongst populations (Bradshaw, 2002; Chen & Corak, 2008).

These consequences include to inadequate educational opportunities (Serneels & Dercon, 2021), malnutrition (Fore et al, 2020; Rahman et al., 2021), health-related illness (Spencer et al., 2019), shelter and sanitation (Jack, 2000) and stunted emotional and psychological development (Brandes-Aitken et al., 2019). While this list is not exhaustive, it highlights areas in which societal engagement amongst business and strategy professionals and experts across all disciplines can enhance strategic engagement toward eradicating poverty. 

How to tackle poverty alleviation has been the focus of studies applying different strategic approaches. For example, Marcil et al. (2021) address poverty through the scope of healthcare and medication access utilizing a Medical-Financial-Partnership (MFPs) whereby health and financial service organizations partner to assist families in intervening at critical junctions of development to deliver effective healthcare for those in need. Further, other research studies have highlighted the factors propagating poverty. For example, Scherr (2000) examined the relationship between poverty and natural resource degradation and found that active involvement of disenfranchised individuals with natural resource development enhances livelihoods for all involved. Do and Iyer (2010) investigated the correlation between conflict and poverty in Nepal and discovered that more impoverished districts of the nation are likely to be drawn into conflicts due to limited socio-economic opportunities.

Furthermore, the lack of shelter, water, and sanitation infrastructure contributes significantly to the proliferation of poverty (Nandy & Gordon, 2009). Food, shelter, and nutrition emerged as predominant drivers of poverty in Tehran’s southern regions. (Raghfar & Yousefvand, 2011).
Other scholars have adopted a strategic entrepreneurial lens to examine poverty alleviation in developed countries context. For example. in their study, Ogundele Akingbade and Akinlabi (2012) discovered that educational training in entrepreneurship throughout Nigeria accelerated poverty alleviation. However, although educational training can assist in alleviating poverty, it becomes increasingly difficult to implement an effective strategic method if an insufficient legal and political framework governs the region (Trani Biggeri & Mauro, 2013; Abiodun Onafowora & Ayo-Adeyekun, 2019). Given the vast contexts and fields that interact with poverty, these professional disciplines are ripe for multidisciplinary collaboration to address this societal concern. 
Multidisciplinary approaches to poverty can contribute to examining the resource and inequality gap facing the crisis (Bourdillion & Boyden, 2011; Thorbecke, 2013; Bocquet et al., 2019).

Indeed, several studies illustrate that bridging the gap through strategic collaboration can provide an innovative array of diverse perspectives, experiences, viewpoints, and ideas that can enhance the social and economic well-being of those faced with poverty (Heckman, 2011; Blitz et al., 2013; Larantika et al., 2017). Parenthetically, these studies assert that strategies implored by the public and private sectors can improve the dissolution of inequality and poverty-related factors (Thompson, 2006; Estevez, 2013). However, traditionally, tension existed between the public and private sectors regarding the strategic approach toward inequality and the drivers of poverty (Scheyvens Banks & Hughes, 2016; Venugopal, 2012; Parthasarathy, 2020). Thus, exploring the prospect of public-private-sector strategic partnerships may be a helpful path forward. 

The strategic methodologies toward alleviating poverty by the public and private sectors provide two distinctive ontological perspectives. First, the public sector utilizes tax revenue to redistribute among social programs and initiatives to close the gap of societal issues such as poverty (Sefton, 2004; Whiteford & Adema, 2007; Herwartz & Theilen, 2017). Conversely, the private sector often addresses societal challenges by, "'bending' their respective structures to try to pursue returns for investors and achieve societal purposes" (Clyde & Karnani, 2015: 21; Amaeshi Nnodim & Onyeka, 2013).

Yet, this strategic approach can prove problematic for managers if the intended results have a negative effect on the firm's bottom line (MacCormac, 2019). Consequently, the private sector may, "have to sacrifice profits in order to help reduce poverty" (Clyde & Karnani, 2015: 21). The nexus of private- public-sector strategic collaboration involves a multitude of professional disciplines that can offer unique methodologies to address the underlying societal issue of poverty (Katz et al., 2018; Sinha et al., 2020). Additionally, the outcome of proposed methodologies may depend on societal response and engagement toward alleviating poverty (Wilkinson, 2002; Bradshaw & Linneker, 2003). 

Societal response toward poverty highlights a need for multidisciplinary and public/private sector collaboration (Jenkins, 2005; Amaeshi et al., 2016; Okpara & Wynn, 2012; Lodge & Wilson, 2016; Levillain & Segrestin, 2019). Still, there is limited literature on the role of multidisciplinary professional change agents and the strategies used to address societal issues like poverty (Estevez, 2013; Gabel, 2013; Vieira, 2014; Pouw & Bender, 2022). Additionally, "should we expect business to go beyond its conventional economic roles to become a more active and accountable participant…in creating a bridge between conventional business agendas and poverty alleviation?" (Blowfield, 2010: 124). If so, a multidisciplinary strategy may be one remedy (Bronstein, 2003). Hence, the purpose of this special issue is to explore the impact of multidisciplinary approaches. This special issue welcomes theory development, empirical studies, conceptual work, and case studies in investigating poverty. 

List of topic areas

Topics for consideration include

  • Multidisciplinary collaborations between business and other professional disciplines that address poverty alleviation;
  •  Change agents and poverty  alleviation;
  • Alleviation of child poverty;
  • Equity enhancement of resources, education, and development opportunities;
  • Strategic approaches to multidisciplinary collaborations, the role of change agents and other stakeholders in the alleviation of poverty;
  • Innovation and innovative methods that address poverty;
  • Digital technologies impact on poverty alleviation;
  •  Multidisciplinary approaches of social responsibility that address poverty alleviation;
  • Cross-cultural comparative and single case studies on public/private sector initiatives to address poverty;
  • Conceptual papers of multidisciplinary action taken amongst the humanities, business, and technology industries to address poverty;
  • New methods or models for assessing society’s role in addressing poverty ‘writ large’

Guest Editors:

James Bezjian, The Citadel Military College of South Carolina, USA, [email protected]

Peter McKiernan, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom, [email protected]

Veselina Stoyanova, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, [email protected]

Guest Editorial Review Board:

Kenneth Amaeshi, European University Institute, Italy, [email protected] 

Andreas Hoepner, University College Dublin, Ireland, [email protected] 

Onyaglanu Idoko, University of College London, United Kingdom, [email protected]

Jose Godinez, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, USA, [email protected]

Submissions Information

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Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 15/02/2023
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31/07/2023       
Email for questions or to submit an abstract[email protected]